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Privateer Dash

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Location: Freeport, Cumberland, Maine, United Statesmap
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Contents

History

Dash was a privateer schooner built in 1813 at Porter's Landing, Freeport, Maine, by James Brewer for Seward and Samuel Porter.[1] She was not part of the United States Navy but commissioned as a privateer ship during the War of 1812, authorized to seize enemy ships and keep or sell what was found onboard. She was also used to evade the Embargo Act to trade cargo in places like the West Indies.[2] Dash was one of the most successful privateers during the War of 1812, known for her remarkable speed. In seven voyages, under four captains, she took all fifteen prizes she chased.[2]

Part owner Seward Porter described Dash as 220 tons "burthen", with "mounted three carriage guns and had a company of fifty four men" and was on her fifth "cruise against the enemy".[3]

Voyage Date Destination Captain Notes Sources
1 1813 Santo Domingo Edward Kelleran b. Thompson? d. abt 1850; from Georges River; arrived in Portland by 1810 [1][4]
2 Aug 31, 1813 Port-au-Prince Edward Kelleran [1][4]
3 Dec 13, 1813 Port-au-Prince Edward Kelleran [1][4]
4 Summer 1814 south of Bermuda William Cammett b. abt 1786, d. Apr 1880; Lt of Rapid August 1812; later appointed inspector of customs under Pres. Lincoln [1][4]
5 Summer 1814 Bermuda William Cammett [1][4]
6 Sep 13, 1814 Wilmington, NC George Bacon Lt under William Cammett in previous voyages [1][4]
7 1814  ? John Porter younger brother of Seward and Samuel Porter [1][4]

Timeline

  • 1813: built at Porter's Landing for the Porter brothers[1][2][4]
  • 1813: maiden voyage from Portland, Maine, to Santo Domingo to trade for coffee, Captain Edward Kelleran[1][4][5][6]
    • Lieutenant Henry Cobb[6]; first launched with a crew of forty[1]
    • Dash returned to Portland, damaged by a British man-of-war on the voyage home[7]
  • Before second voyage: "Off came the foremast and on went a stouter spar and square sails and the topsail schooner metamorphosed into a hermaphrodite brig – a vessel with a brazen abundance of canvas and a concomitantly greater aptitude for speed."[7]
  • August 31, 1813: embarked from Castine, Maine, on 2nd voyage, Captain Edward Kelleran[1]
    • September 6: headed for Port-au-Prince after stopping at Deer Island and Owlshead
    • September 22: arrived at Jacquemel
    • October 1: arrived in Port-au-Prince to trade for coffee and logwood
    • October 17: began return voyage to Portland, Maine
    • October 31-November 3: pursued by British brig, eventually outpaced her after throwing goods overboard
    • November: chased by two more ships, outpaced them
    • November 5: arrived in Portland
  • December 13, 1813: embarked on 3rd voyage, again to Port-au-Prince, Captain Edward Kelleran[1][2][4][8]
    • December 31: arrived in Port-au-Prince, traded for 30,000 lbs. of coffee
    • January 16, 1814: left port with New York schooner Flash
    • February 15: arrived back in Portland
  • June 18, 1814: commission date?[4]
  • before July: 4th voyage; headed south of Bermuda, under Captain William Cammett[4]
    • George Bacon 1st Lieutenant; James Slater of Portland was a prizemaster; crew increased to 60 men[1]
    • outsailed man-of-war and retreated to Wilmington, North Carolina; purchased flour and tobacco and various other goods[4]
    • July 11: arrived in Portland under Captain William Cammett[1]
  • bef August 21: 5th voyage embarked, under Captain William Cammett[1][4]
    • James Slater of Portland was one of the prizemasters during this era (August 1814-January 1815)[6]
    • August 21: in sight of Bermuda, spotted the captured Emily of Charleston and retook it; boarded the Five Sisters and seized her rum cargo
    • September 3: approached Portland; fought a British schooner into retreating before arrival[2]
  • September 13: Dash commissioned as a privateer by President Madison; Captain William Cammett, Lieutenant George Bacon[2][4][5][9]
  • First Lieutenant George Bacon promoted to replace Cammett as captain[1][4]
  • September 13: 6th voyage embarked, under Captain George Bacon; 35 men, armed with two 18-lb. guns and one 32-lb. pivot gun[1][2][4]
    • James Slater of Portland was one of Dash's prizemasters during this era (August 1814–January 1815)[6]
    • September 29: captured a schooner from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia[5]
    • October 3: seized rum cargo from an English brig
    • October 20: Wiscasset for a few days
    • October 26: captured the Thinks-I-To-Myself
    • October 27: returned to Portland with prisoners[9]
  • November 9: 7th voyage, under Captain John Porter[1][4][7]
    • James Slater of Portland was one of Dash's prizemasters during this era (August 1814–January 1815; he was not aboard the 8th and final voyage)[6]
    • November 12: off Cape Sable
    • November 16: captured Halifax schooner Polly[10]
    • November 17: second schooner captured, ordered to Portland
    • December 12: recaptured schooner Armistice of New York
    • December 19: captured a sloop headed for Bermuda
    • December 20: captured an English brig
    • seized cargo from St. John brig Mary Ann
    • January 4, 1815: returned to Portland[1][11]
  • six captures under Porter[1]; between nine[8] and fifteen[1][2][5][7] captures total
  • January 1815: Dash almost two weeks in port for refitting[4]
  • January 21, 1815: Dash heads southward from Portland Harbor with Portsmouth schooner Champlain, who challenges her to a race[1][2][5][7][12]
    • By the next day, Champlain had been left behind, unable to match Dash's speed. She lost complete sight of Dash when a snowstorm rolled in.[7][13]
    • Deposition in pension files of prize master Henry Cumpston states that:
"officers of said Brig Champlain [said] that they kept company with said Dash until the night of the twenty second of said January when they were separated in a gale which continued for six or seven days with great violence" and "it is the general belief that said Dash was lost in said gale, with all on board as no person belonging to her has since been seen or heard of"[3]

Between fifty-four[3] and sixty men—sixteen of them from Freeport—were lost on the final voyage of the Dash.[2][4][8] No trace of the ship or her crew has ever been found, but it is largely believed that Dash was broken up on the Georges Shoals.[5][7][12][13]

The Dead Ship of Harpswell

Ghost stories of the Dash begin with Captain John Porter's own wife, Lois. The two were newlyweds, their marriage only a few months old when Porter embarked on the Dash in January 1815.[4][7] Reportedly, on the night of the gale after Porter embarked on the Dash, Lois was at her father's home in Portland and heard a crashing sound from the parlor. The wind had somehow broken a porcelain mantelpiece tile—which was decorated with Scripture text—and sent it shattering on the floor. Someone in the house brought the pieces to Lois and exclaimed, "The Dash is gone!"[12][14]

The first sighting of a ghost ship believed to be the Dash occurred several months after its disappearance in 1815. Simon Bibber was fishing off Pumpkin Knob when he saw a sailed ship approach, despite windless conditions. It came within 30 feet and he was able to read the ship's nameplate: "Dash—Freeport". The ship passed and he hurried to Freeport, but she was not there when he arrived. He told a skeptical Mort Collins what he had seen, when a Roscoe Moulton arrived and said he saw the same thing off Crab Island. Both times the ship came close enough to the witness that her nameplate could be read.[5][7]

The ship continued to be sighted throughout Casco Bay. It was sighted by the crew of seventeen aboard the schooner Betty Macomber, and again in the 1880s by a guest at the Harpswell Inn. It was seen again at the end of August 1915 by Miriam Fenney Fox, her brother Dudley, and their friends.[5]

At some point, sightings of the Dash became associated with impending death. Sightings of the ship occurred shortly before the witness received news of the passing of a loved one. Captain John Toothaker's wife Polly saw the ship before her husband's death; it is also said that Easter Toothaker saw the ghost ship before he jumped overboard to his death.[7]

In August 1942, a craft appeared on Navy radar. Two ships were sent into the fog to investigate what they thought could be a German U-boat. Other witnesses on Pumpkin Knob saw the Navy ships pass, pursuing a wooden schooner whose nameplate read "Dash".[5] It was seen again one August morning in the early 1970s by a woman on Bailey Island, sailing into Merriconeag Sound. It disappeared in the short time it took the woman to call for her husband to come see.[7]

A common element in stories of the ghost ship Dash is that she is never able to complete her journey, always disappearing or even sailing back out to sea before she can reach Freeport. She usually seems to be spotted on foggy summer days, usually in August.[5][7]

Crew

Below are the men believed to have been aboard the privateer Dash when she disappeared in January 1815. Many of these names are derived from genealogy books and require further documentation.

# Name Rank Residence Notes Sources
1 John Porter Captain / Commander Freeport b. 27 Nov 1792, 8th of 11 children; m. Lois Cushing 13 Mar 1814 in Portland; Lois had a son John Porter 25 Apr 1815; she m. Capt. John Dunlap of Brunswick aft 1820 who became John Jr.'s guardian 1822; John Porter's pension continued to his son [1][2][4][5][7][13][15][16]
2 Ebenezer Porter Lieutenant Freeport b. May 1790, John Porter's brother[2][4][13][15]
3 Jeremiah Porter Lieutenant Freeport b. Feb 1796, John's younger brother[2][4][13][15]
4 Henry Cumpston Prize Master Portland was entitled in Nov 1814 to four shares on any prizes made by Dash; m. Lydia ___ 9 Oct 1802, who collected his pension through 1834 [3]
5 George Roberts Carpenter Portland b. 1 Mar 1773, son of Joseph Roberts and Ruth White; m. Hannah Davis, listed on her headstone in Portland's Eastern Cemetery [6]
6 Job Bennett Jr. Seaman Freeport m. Anna Davis, who collected his pension through 1830[4][17][18][19]
7 Reuben Ridley Seaman Bowdoinham b. 18 Aug 1788, son of Daniel Ridley; m. Rachel Curtis who collected his pension 1819 through at least 1820 [20][21]
8 John Alexander Dovire Cook's mate Portland m. Sally ___ 5 Jun 1814; they had no children. Sally m. Feb 11 1817 to Samuel Powers[22]
9 Eliphas/Eliphaz Soule ? Freeport b. 20 Apr 1791, son of Barnabas Soule and Jane Dennison see profile
10 Dennis Sylvester ? Freeport son of Abner Sylvester and Sally Dennison[4][17][23]
11 William Pote ? Freeport ?[4][24]
12-20 9 more men from Freeport ? Freeport ? [2]
21 Robert Adams ? Limington son of Samuel Adams and Mary Allen [25]
22 Earl Chamberlin ? ? ? [15]
23 Nathaniel Cushing ? ? son of Apollos Robinson Cushing and Elizabeth Gates; brother-in-law of Captain John Porter [26]
24 Ebenezer Gray York ? ? b. 8 Aug 1794 [27][28]
25 Nathaniel Hunnewell ? ? born 15 Jan 1788, son of Elijah Hunnewell and Rebecca Locke [29]
26 Andrew Leighton ? Cumberland/North Yarmouth son of Andrew Leighton [30]
27 Joseph Leighton ? Cumberland/North Yarmouth son of Andrew Leighton [30]
28 Caleb Libby ? ? ? [31]
29 James Frazier Libby ? Limington ? [31]
30 Edward Oxnard ? Portland b. 13 Sep 1777, son of Thomas Oxnard and Martha Preble; m. Rebecca Thompson [6][32]
31 Enoch Oxnard ? Portland son of Thomas Oxnard and Martha Preble [6][32]
32 Robert Pote ? ? b. 8 Feb 1795, son of William Pote and Dorcas Merrill [15][33][24][34]
33 Nathaniel Snow ? ? ? [35]
34 Joseph Stanwood ? Brunswick b. 28 Oct 1792, son of William Stanwood and Hannah Chase [36][37]
35 Robert Stanwood ? Brunswick b. 12 Jun 1795, son of William Stanwood and Hannah Chase [36][37]
36 Joseph Totman ? Harpswell ? [38]
37 Ephraim Washburn ? Hebron m. Sarah Perkins [39][40]
38 son of Captain Greenfield Pote ? ? ? [41]
39 younger brother of Henry Preble ? ? ? [42]
40 cousin of the Porters ? ? ? [12]
41 cousin of the Porters ? ? ? [12]
42-60 13-19 more men ? ? ? ?

Sources

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 Goold, William. Portland in the Past; with Historical Notes of Old Falmouth. Portland, Me.: B. Thurston & Company, 1886. 449ff.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 "The Story of DASH", Freeport Historical Society.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files for Henry Cumpston.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 4.25 4.26 Linscott, Jeff. USS DASH. Historic Database.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Bennett, Troy R. "This ghost ship hunted U-boats in Portland Harbor… maybe." Bangor Daily News, September 11, 2017.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Underhill, Lora Altine Woodbury. Descendants of Edward Small of New England, and the Allied Families, with Tracings of English Ancestry, Volume 2. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1910. 1083ff.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 Mills, Eric. The Spectral Tide: True Ghost Stories of the U.S. Navy. Naval Institute Press, 2009.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "1775-1820 Tension, War, & Separation." Maine History Online.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Maine Historical Society, Minerva database. Dash, brig - Ship papers, 1812:1814.
  10. "Privateering." American Advocate. Saturday, Nov 26, 1814. Hallowell, ME Vol: V Issue: 45 Page: 3.
  11. "Dash Privateer." American Advocate. Saturday, Jan 14, 1815 Hallowell, ME Vol: V Issue: 52 Page: 3.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 W.G. "Letter to the Editor." Portland Daily Press. Wednesday, Oct 04, 1882 Portland, ME Vol: 20 Page: 4.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 "George's Shoal." Portland Daily Press. Friday, Jan 21, 1887. Portland, ME Vol: 24 Page: 3.
  14. Goold, William. "Missing Ships." Portland Daily Press. Monday, Jul 23, 1888 Portland, ME Vol: 27 Page: 3.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Holton, David-Parsons. Winslow memorial : family records of Winslows and their descendants in America, with the English ancestry as far as known: Kenelm Winslow. New York: D.P. Holton, 1877-1888.
  16. War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files for John Porter.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Mitchell, Harry Edward, comp; Campbell, Elizabeth M. and Campbell, A. I. Freeport Register, 1904. Brunswick, Me.: H.E. Mitchell Publishing Co., 1904.
  18. Sinnett, Charles Nelson. Michael Sinnett of Harpswell, Maine, his ancestry and descendants, also records of other Sinnetts, Sinnotts, etc. in Ireland and America. Concord, N.H. : Rumford Press, 1910. Page 55.
  19. War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files for Job Bennett.
  20. War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files for Reuben Ridley.
  21. Ridlon, Gideon Tibbetts. History of the Ancient Ryedales: And Their Descendants in Normandy, Great Britain, Ireland, and America, from 860 to 1884, Higginson Book Company, 1884.
  22. War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files for John A. Dovire.
  23. Rogers, Grace Millet. The Dennison family of North Yarmouth and Freeport, Maine, descended from George Dennison, 1699-1747 of Annisquam, Mass. Exeter, N.H.: The News-letter press, 1906. Page 89.
  24. 24.0 24.1 National Register Nomination Form - Harraseeket Historic District.
  25. Adams, Andrew Napoleon. A genealogical history of Robert Adams, of Newbury, Mass., and his descendants, 1635-1900. Rutland, Vt.: The Tuttle co., printers, 1900. page 120.
  26. http://www.the-snorings.co.uk/media/books/Genealogy%20of%20the%20Cushing%20Family%201905.pdf
  27. https://archive.org/details/mainehistoricalg1886port/page/20
  28. Sargent, William M. The York Family. Manhattan, Kan.: Art Craft Printers, 1936.
  29. Dole, Samuel Thomas. Windham in the Past. Auburn, Me.: Merrill & Webber Co., 1916.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Biographical review : this volume contains biographical sketches of leading citizens of Cumberland County, Maine. Boston: Biographical Review Pub. Co., 1896.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Libby, Charles Thornton. The Libby family in America,1602-1881. Portland, Me. : B. Thurston & Co. 1882.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Dudley, Dean. History and genealogy of the Bangs family in America: with genealogical tables and notes, tracing the descendants, male and female, from the Pilgrim ancestor, Edward Bangs of Plymouth and Eastham. Montrose, Mass.: D. Dudley, 1896.
  33. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/c/clementsmss/umich-wcl-M-3314pot?view=text
  34. "Maine Births and Christenings, 1739-1900", database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F4C3-D9H : 14 January 2020), William Pote in entry for Robert Pote, 1795.
  35. Thurston, Brown. Thurston genealogies, 1635-1892. Portland, Me.: B. Thurston, 1892.
  36. 36.0 36.1 Bolton, Ethel Stanwood. A history of the Stanwood family in America. Boston, Mass.: Rockwell and Churchill Press, 1889.
  37. 37.0 37.1 "Steve Condarcure's New England Genealogy Index 371".
  38. Rootsweb. "Harpswell Queries".
  39. Cushman, Henry Wyles. A Historical and biographical genealogy of the Cushmans: the descendants of Robert Cushman, the Puritan, from the year 1617 to 1855. Boston : Little, Brown, and Company, 1855. page 179.
  40. King. Marquis Fayette. Annals of Oxford, Maine, from its incorporation, February 27, 1829 to 1850. Portland, Me.: 1903; page 286.
  41. Thurston, Florence G. Three Centuries of Freeport, Maine. Freeport, Me.: 1940.
  42. Kert, Faye. Privateering: Patriots and Profits in the War of 1812. JHU Press, 2015.




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